So we get to round 11 of the Super14, and with the Sharks taking a breather, it is all about the Bulls game against the Chiefs on Saturday evening. I am afraid I do not hold much hope for our two touring teams, and with the Cheetahs taking on the defending champs in Bloemfontein, it’s just as well that I have a good feeling about the Bulls …
Friday, April 24, 2009
Highlanders v Stormers, Dunedin 09:35
And we are off to a painful start – yes it is just plain painful to watch this Stormers outfit in action. And with all of Jean de Villiers, Adriaan Fondse and Brian Mujati back in Cape Town, I see more pain. Not sure why Rassie Erasmus went so mental on the changes, though. If he had kept Wylie Human on the wing, then Gcobani Bobo could have remained at centre, and Peter Grant could have stayed at flyhalf. I am pretty sure it matters not, but when forced into making changes because of injury, it makes sense to keep some stability in other positions. I also have no idea why he has brought pension boy, AJ Venter, back into the side when Hilton Lobberts made a more than positive start to his lock forward career? Brok Harris is back at tighthead after a very lengthy layoff, and it will be a serious welcome to the real world for the ginger ninger against man mountain Jamie MacKintosh. This Stormers pack will struggle. Highlanders by 15.
Western Force v Lions, Perth 13:05
I underestimated the Lions last week, and took deserved heat in the comments. But at the risk of being pilloried again by the “Gauties”, I am afraid I am going down that same road this week. Not that I was not impressed by the Henno Mentz lead charge, but those Brisbane boys are a rag-tag lot. Anyone heard of Robert Kruger, Hansie van Dyk, or JC Janse van Rensburg? Nope? Well, they are playing for the Lions this weekend! The Force, on the other hand, are an organised lot with some real class behind the pack in the form of Drew Mitchell, Scott Staniforth, Ryan Cross, Cameron Shepherd, and Matt Giteau. I just do not see the Lions getting up for another win on the road. Force by 10.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Blues v Reds, North Harbour 07:30
The Super14 has been called “basketball rugby” by a few sceptics in the past, but we have not seen any of that in a while. But I have a feeling that could all change at 07h30 on Saturday morning. If this Blues side keep it together and do the hard yards in the first 20 minutes, this game really could develop into something like a bulldog eating porridge for the hapless Reds. Here’s to Brutus the bulldog, then. Blues by 28.
Hurricanes v Brumbies, Wellington 09:35
Mission critical for both sides as they scrap it out for a spot in the semi finals. The Canes made merry against the dire Stormers last week, while the Brumbies benefitted hugely from a Zane Kirchner brain fart last week to pip the Bulls by a solitary point. It really will depend on what side turns up, with both teams able to play scintillating rugby on their day, yet also come out of the changing shed just a little flat. Nonu vs Mortlock in itself should be worth the 80 minutes in front of the box. Hurricanes by 8.
Cheetahs v Crusaders, Vodacom Park 15:00
After getting past the Sharks in Durban, and having decided to rest a few players this week, I suppose there is a chance that the defending champs might underestimate the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. And the home side do not look a half bad outfit on paper, even with the relatively one dimensional Naas Olivier at flyhalf. But I think the boys from Bloem have played their final – against the Sharks 2 weeks ago – and while the Richie McCaw inspired ‘Saders might not have it all their way, I still think they will have too much in the tank for the Cheetahs. Crusaders by 7.
Bulls v Chiefs, Loftus Versfeld 17:05
And we eventually get to the “pudding” sports pages at the back of an election stuffed newspaper! A real top of the table clash - What a way to finish the Super14 weekend … The Bulls are back in Pretoria and will be head banging changing shed doors after that one point loss in Canberra last week. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have been enjoying the lovely Highveld after a fairly straight forward win in Bloem last week. Traditionally there have been high scoring games between these two teams, including a 26 all draw just three years ago in Hamilton. Not convinced we will see the same this in this defence orientated year, though. Richard Kahui vs Wynand Olivier and Sione Lauaki vs Pierre Spies are two contests that will go a long way to deciding the outcome, and my money is light blue. Bulls by 4.
So a more manageable six games this weekend, and with the SA sides playing on Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, the divorce papers could even be put on hold for a week. Just make sure you are either at Loftus on Saturday evening, or sucking on a cold one on your couch with a big stick of biltong in your pocket so your mates can’t steal it!